By Beth Morris
This spring I had the privilege of being a PEPS Newborn Group Leader for the first time. As I gear up to lead my second group this summer, I’m reflecting on the lessons that shaped me and made me a better leader (I hope) the first time around…
- Don’t Be a Know-It-All
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
When I first read those words years ago, they struck a deep chord in me, and I’ve tried to return to them often over the years. Surely I know that as much as there is that people don’t know about me, there is just as much I don’t know about them…right?
Never is this truer than in parenting. Parenting is so, so personal, yet so, so universal at the same time. Though millions of people are parents, it is so easy to think of it as a “one size fits all” pair of shoes. Surely what’s worked for me should work for them, we think to ourselves. Or, conversely – They seem to have it all together with their picture-perfect family; what could they possibly have to complain about? It goes both ways – we parents can so easily make assumptions about what’s wrong – or right – with other people’s families. But the truth is each one has its battles – and victories – we know nothing about.
As the layers of PEPS members’ lives are gently peeled back like an onion, a little more each week, we learn how much we don’t know about others, and what a privilege it is when they choose to share it with us. This is the magic of PEPS. When we let others see our joys and our struggles, our pride and our pain, our highest highs and our lowest lows – and we provide a safe place for them to share theirs right back with us. Kindness ensues when we stop assuming.
- Listen More Than You Talk
The last PEPS Group I led was composed of 16 parents and 8 babies. That means that when we went around the room sharing “highs and lows” or sounding off on discussion topics, each parent spoke only one-sixteenth as much as they listened. We live in a culture that extols extroversion, rewards loud leadership, and can view passivity (like quietly sitting back and listening to another human) as boring at best, or a weakness at worst. One of the things I love about PEPS is the powerful reminder of the gift we give others through listening. Listening says, “I’m making space for you.” It says, “You matter” and “You’re not alone.” It says, “I have something to learn from you.” It says all of those things through its selfless, respectful silence.
So when you’re sitting there in that circle, carefully crafting in your mind the words you’ll say when it’s your turn to talk, I challenge you instead to sit back and just listen. It’s the greatest gift you can give those fellow moms and dads, and when it’s your turn to talk, you’ll feel them giving it right back to you. As a leader, these are the moments I witness where those truly priceless connections are forged.
- We’re a Lot More Alike than we are Different
Screen time. Bed-sharing. Breastfeeding. It’s so easy to get so obsessed with the stances we take on “hot button” parenting issues, that we overlook the many, many more things we have in common with that parent sitting next to us. If we remember not to assume, and to listen, we’ll typically find that, though others may make different choices than us – we’re all doing the best we can, and we are all in this together.
- Everyone Needs Encouragement
Even the mom that comes to group exclaiming how well-rested she is (how dare she!), or the dad that is reveling in a 6-month paid paternity leave while others in the group got three weeks at best – needs encouragement. It all comes full circle with the listening/remembering we’re alike/not assuming. No matter how put together or falling apart someone may seem on the outside, every single one of us needs encouragement. To be listened to, to be told we’re doing a good job, that we’re good parents – there are people who would pay their weight in gold just to hear those words.
When you think of the amazing community PEPS provides to do just that, to be just that encouragement to one another at one of the wildest, joyous, scariest, most pivotal points in one’s life – it’s a pretty priceless thing.
About the Author
Seattle native Beth Morris is a PEPS Newborn Group Leader, writer for this blog and her own (writeasrainblog.com) and stay-at-home mom to 1-year-old son, Anderson. She enjoys salty margaritas and can sing a mean Shania Twain karaoke cover (definitely in that order), and wishes life were more like the TV show Friday Night Lights.